Whilst typing, I am 10,000 feet up in the air. Looking down, I see a landscape of mountains covered in snow and the sun dipping on the curve of the earth, bathing in a ridiculously beautiful shade of pink. What I see is Northern Norway, the most developed region in the Arctic, my home. From up here, the Arctic looks like what the rest of the world imagines it to be – empty.
Zooming in, however, something starts to take shape. Small villages along the coast selling its blue gold (fish) to every corner of the globe. Now and then, the agglomerating lights from the arctic cities also come into view. They are not exactly global metropolitan centres, but small and medium sized cities who often face the same kind of issues as other places on the globe; The fourth industrial revolution, migration, overpriced real estate markets or traffic congestion. I grew up here, in an island on the Lofoten archipelago with approximately 24,000 inhabitants, and I did my undergraduate degree at Norway’s Arctic University in Tromsø – a city of 70,000.
Wherever you come from, our generation has at least one thing in common; figuring out what to do with your life can be difficult. Very difficult. I have worked and studied in different fields, and discovered the master’s in Local Economic Development (LED) about a year ago. I still remember how it stuck in my mind. In the search for my last year as an official student, I browsed the web countless times to be sure I had taken in all the possibilities, but it always came back to the LED. In an odd way, it felt like coming home. Like someone had crafted a postgraduate degree that contained all my interests, and then some.
Being a development-nerd, constantly interested in how places can become better versions of themselves, there is no better place to be than here. Our class feels like a miniature version of the world, a melting-pot of ideas and experiences. While I find it fascinating to listen to the structures, opportunities and challenges from China, Italy, South Africa, Pakistan, USA, Columbia and the UK – they (hopefully) find it interesting to hear about the urban Arctic in return.
More than ever, it feels like the right decision to be surrounded by such a range of different cultures. This year’s political events show how important it is both to discuss with people that you disagree with, and to make friends and colleagues across cultures. Wherever you are from, our generation has another thing in common: we will have to work closer together across borders, and not lock ourselves in. Looking back on choices, I’m pretty sure that an education away from home, in a global melting-pot, will be one of my better investments in life.